Did you know there is no Easter bunny in Italy (if you exclude South Tyrol, which still has strong ties with German traditions)? There are eggs, lots of them. They are baked whole into the savory torta pasqualina (Easter tart). Almost everybody, young or old, gets a chocolate egg with a hidden surprise on the inside. These eggs come in all chocolate varieties and in several sizes. There are eggs for boys, eggs for girls, fancy eggs from bakeries. Lindt eggs, Ferrero eggs, cartoon theme eggs. But there is no bunny to hide them, no sir. He hops right by Italy.
There are all kinds of other animals instead. Lambs are pleniful, as a main course and in the Sicilian marzipan version. Doves are everywhere in the guise of Colombe Pasquali, acake similar to the traditional Christmas panettone. But no Easter rabbit.
As a half American, half German Easter egg dyeing and hunting are a must. I have to let the Easter Bunny know where we are. To make sure he visits us, I baked a carrot cake, because we all know how much rabbits like carrots. A mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do, right?
I got the recipe for the cake and the frosting from the Joy of Cooking. It is fool proof and I really mean it. I baked this before rushing out for an evening on the town with F. The recipe said 25-30 minutes. Perfect! The babysitter was on her way up when I pulled the cake out exactly 30 minutes after I put it in. It looked a little wobbly in the center, not a good sign. I tested with a toothpick and it came out clean, so I turned off the oven without second thoughts, certain it would be perfect by the time it cooled off. I was in for a surprise when I discovered in the morning that it had totally sunken in the middle and was undercooked.
I wasn't going to throw away a whole cake, rabbit or not. My only option was to stick it back into the oven. I let it bake for a good 30 more minutes and the center rose, despite leaving a sunken ring and dark edges as a reminder, just to make me feel guilty about the fun I had the night before, when I was too busy downing mojitos to tend to my
children cake. While it was cooling I made the frosting, which turned out lucious and creamy. I cut off the slightly burnt edges (thus the crumbs in the frosting on the sides) and slathered it in white goodness. Helloooo Easter Bunny, here we are!
We are off to South Tyrol for Easter to look for the Easter Bunny because, after all this, we forgot to save him piece of the carrot cake. Ooops...
Happy Easter to all of you!
1 1/3 cup flour
2/3 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups finely grated carrot
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 freshly grated or ground teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup crushed pineapple, lightly drained
8oz. cream cheese (I used 160gr, about 6.5 oz)
2 cups confectioner's sugar (I used a little under a cup)
5 tbsp butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla
I did a bit of tweaking, according to what I had in the house. I didn't have any of the spices required except the cinnamon, I substituted white sugar with brown sugar because it seemed like a healthier option, I used olive oil. For the frosting I used two 80gr packs of cream cheese (about 6.5 ounces) because I wasn't baking a layer cake and didn't need filling. The recipe also said the amount of sugar used can vary greatly according to taste. I used a little under a cup and it was sweet without being excessive. Also, I was out of vanilla. The cake turned out delicious anyway, but I am writing the recipe as it is printed.
All ingredients should be at room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9×2-inch round pans or two 8×8-inch pans or one 13×9-inch pan or line the bottom with wax paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda and powder, the spices and salt. Add the oil and eggs, and stir together well with a rubber spatula or beat on low speed. Stir in the carrots and nuts. Scrape the batter into the pan(s). Bake until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Hah!
To make the frosting beat 8 oz. cold cream cheese with 5 tbsp of softened butter and 2 tsp of vanilla until combined. Gradually add 2 cups (or less!!!) powdered sugar that you will have previously sifted. Mix as little as possible, just enough for the ingredients to be well-combined.